Postdocs and faculty honored with awards and grants

June 30, 2022 - by Sarah Igram

Fourteen postdoctoral scholars and two principal investigators have been awarded for their contributions to the Iowa State community. Postdocs are eligible for the Postdoctoral Seed Grant, Postdoctoral Scholar Excellence Award for Teaching and Mentoring Students, and the Postdoctoral Scholar Research Excellence Award. Principal investigators are eligible for the Postdoctoral Mentoring Award.


Postdoctoral Seed Grant

These competitive grants provide postdoctoral scholars a valuable opportunity to apply for research funding in the role of a principal investigator. Postdoctoral scholars are expected to develop independent research, and this grant is an opportunity to gain experience doing so.


Fabian Diaz is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine.


Photo of Elizabeth Elliott

Elizabeth Elliott, a postdoctoral scholar in Psychology, researches a rarely studied phenomenon: the decision-making process that occurs during deception detection.

Her seed grant will be used to fund two studies in which she will examine deception detection dynamically (i.e., moment-to-moment). Her goal is to test a novel approach using sophisticated technology, improve metrics, and embed the data into a well-known model of decision-making.

"As an international postdoc, it is difficult to get funding through traditional channels," Elliott said. "This award allows me to collect pilot data from two studies to strengthen my application for a highly competitive NSF grant."


Ankit Joshi is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management. His research involves mathematical modeling of the human thermoregulation system. The fundamental modeling approach he uses is based on understanding the mechanisms associated with heat and particle transfer between the human body, the clothing system and personal protective equipment (PPE), and the environment. His work helps in the development of new PPE so occupational workers, such as firefighters and military personnel, can maintain their body temperature in hazardous conditions and mitigate any risks to their health and safety. With his seed grant, he will provide an innovative pathway for designing new gloves.

"For this specific project, we are focused on hand protection because hands are extremely vulnerable to cold weather injuries and hand-arm vibration syndrome due to the nature of their anatomical geometry, anthropometry, and thermal physiology," Joshi explained.

Joshi added that his seed grant will provide him valuable experience, confidence, and the opportunity to work on a research idea. It will also lead to preliminary data, furthering the possibilities of funding from other agencies in the future.


Joffrey Mejias is a postdoctoral scholar in Plant Pathology and Microbiology.


Photo of Qi Mu

Qi Mu is a postdoctoral scholar in Agronomy. She explores the genetic and environmental mechanisms underlying phenotypic variations of plant height in sorghum and maize. With her seed grant, she will conduct a pilot study for the genomic selection of complex traits in peanuts.

"This award means a lot to me. It is a recognition of my work at Iowa State, and I am honored to receive it. I was excited to come up with this project, and I am delighted it is funded," Mu said. "It is also thrilling to become an independent principal investigator for the first time on a research project. My career goal is to become a faculty member. The grant application experience and award demonstrated my skills and boosted my confidence in obtaining more grants in the future."


Photo of Krishna Sharma

Krishna Sharma is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Chemistry. His research is centered on developing novel synthetic strategies to explore peptides in drug discovery and development, which will lead to new therapeutic agents against various diseases.

"Antibiotic resistant-bacteria are a growing health crisis, thus, there is a critical need to develop new antibiotics with different mechanisms of action compared to current approved drugs," Sharma said. "My approach will be focused on identification of newer scaffolds against antibiotic resistant pathogenic bacteria."

Sharma is grateful to Iowa State and to his program for this honor.

"This seed grant presents a great opportunity for me to explore new ideas at the initial stage as a principal investigator. It will help me to think independently for solving healthcare issues," he said.


Postdoctoral Scholar Excellence Award for Teaching and Mentoring Students

This award honors postdoctoral scholars who have made innovative and significant contributions to training future scientists at Iowa State. Receiving this award may reflect a postdoctoral scholar’s excellence in either classroom teaching or in supervision of undergraduate or graduate students in research.

Photo of Phillip Klahs


Phillip Klahs, a postdoctoral scholar in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, is passionate about plants and strives to share their exceptional biology with students at Iowa State.

"My goal while teaching and mentoring is to change how students see the botanical world around them and develop a persistent curiosity for plants," Klahs said.

Receiving the Postdoctoral Scholar Excellence Award for Teaching and Mentoring Students helps Klahs feel appreciated for his work.


Matthew Mastroeni is a postdoctoral scholar in Mathematics.


Photo of Susheel Kumar Nethi

Susheel Kumar Nethi is a postdoctoral scholar in the Nanovaccine Institute and Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

"I believe that good teachers can not only help students acquire knowledge and skills, but they can also spark their passion for learning, deepen their understanding of real-world phenomena, and encourage the development of their own ideas," Nethi said. "My commitment reflects my gratitude to the great teachers that have inspired me, from whom I have learned the importance of being a good teacher."

Nethi added that he feels honored and privileged to receive the Postdoctoral Scholar Excellence Award for Teaching and Mentoring Students.

"I want to thank the ISU Postdoctoral Association for this award, for recognizing my efforts and contribution, and my mentor Prof. Surya Mallapragada for all the great support," he said.


Postdoctoral Scholar Research Excellence Award

This award honors postdoctoral scholars who have made innovative and significant research contributions to their field of study.

Photo of Mohsen Aliabadi


Mohsen Aliabadi, a Mathematics postdoctoral scholar, researches groups and vector spaces by utilizing tools from additive number theory, linear algebra, and combinatorics. He also works on generalizing existing results to another mathematical structure called mathoids. He is honored to be recognized with a Postdoctoral Scholar Research Excellence Award.




Photo of Amro Hashish

Amro Hashish is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine. Alongside his team in Iowa State's Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (VDL), he works to improve the available diagnostic tools for different infectious diseases in Iowa's poultry industry in Iowa and beyond.

"My research agenda mostly focuses on adopting advanced molecular techniques in the field of avian medicine," Hashish said. "My work at the VDL is fulfilling not only because it gives me the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research, but also because it allows me to contribute to a community of poultry farmers that fuel Iowa's economy and safely feed people all over the world."

Hashish's Postdoctoral Scholar Research Excellence Award is very special to him.

"Since I came to Iowa State, both the Graduate College and Postdoctoral Association have provided us with unlimited resources for personal and professional improvement. Being acknowledged with such a prestigious award from these entities is very rewarding," he said.


Photo of Jungkuk Lee

Jungkuk Lee, postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, received a Research Excellence Award for his work on electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction to value-added chemicals and fuels. This research can help fight climate change by mitigating carbon dioxide concentration and producing valuable chemicals from carbon dioxide.

"Receiving this award is an honor for me, and it proves my significant efforts on preventing climate change," Lee said.




Photo of Santanu Pakhira

Santanu Pakhira works as a postdoctoral scholar in the Ames Laboratory.

"Quantum materials having unusual magnetic and electronic properties are the next generation of promising materials for energy-efficient, faster, and more accurate electronic devices, along with quantum computing," Pakhira explained. "My main objectives are to discover different novel quantum magnetic and electronic materials and study their interesting bulk physical properties. My research activities at Iowa State involve single crystal growth of different such materials and characterization of bulk crystallographic, magnetic, and transport properties."

Pakhira added that he feels deeply honored to receive an award for his research, and that it will inspire him to do more innovative work in the near future.


Photo of Jien Zhang

Jien Zhang, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, studies the interactions and feedback among the agroecosystem, climate, and human activities using computer modeling, statistics, and geospatial analysis.

The Postdoctoral Scholar Research Excellence Award, he said, is "a strong recognition of his work at Iowa State, as well as my long-term career."



Postdoctoral Mentoring Award

This award recognizes principal investigators’ excellence in their mentorship of postdoctoral scholars. The purpose of the award is to promote a collaborative research environment for postdoctoral scholars at Iowa State, eventually leading to their successful transitions to the next stage in their career.


Photo of Christian Meissner

Psychology professor Christian Meissner takes a collaborative approach to mentoring, focusing on core skills and competencies that postdoctoral scholars would like to further develop. He offers opportunities for leadership of projects and for the development of novel lines of research that leverage their collective strengths. He also spends time discussing other areas of professional development, including issues surrounding collaboration, grant writing, teaching, reviewing articles, mentoring students, and managing service obligations.

"It is incredibly humbling to have been nominated by current and former postdocs," Meissner said. "Mentorship of postdocs and graduate students is the most important activity that I engage in. I'm truly grateful for this recognition."



Photo of Yuyu Zhou

Yuyu Zhou, associate professor of Geographical and Atmospherical Sciences, focuses on preparing postdoctoral scholars for the next stages in their careers, building an engaging and exciting research environment, and training postdocs to work both independently and collaboratively on projects.

"Receiving this award is a great honor because of the recognition from the postdoctoral scholars and university," Zhou said, adding that the award will encourage him to continue good practices in mentoring postdocs and to improve his mentoring based on feedback.

Tags: postdoctoral scholars, academic awards